I have listed down the top five kanji books, for JLPT preparation. Without learning kanji you cannot solve grammar and comprehension questions correctly. There are too many kanji to learn. Hence, I believe that it is better to follow a book rather than studying from a list. Books help you understand the meaning of a kanji and the examples indicate its uses. Mostly all books have exercises and answers to them, which help you practice and know your level.
Check out the below books which I have found useful for cracking JLPT.
Nihongo Soumatome – by Ask Books
I have studied the kanji from Nihongo Soumatome (日本語総まとめ）for all the levels (N3, N2 and N1). These books list appropriate kanji for every individual level. kanji are grouped according to their meaning, radicals, reading etc. There are eight main weekly chapters which are subdivided into six daily chapter and a test. These books aim at completing the syllabus within eight weeks, but it depends on the efficiency of the student who is using this book. Nihongo Soumatome kanji books do not show kanji stroke orders, but are the ultimate books to start your kanji preparation for JLPT.
I have seen many people criticizing these books by saying that these are not enough. However, I personally believe that if you can memorize all the kanji in these books you will not be under-prepared.
Nihongo Soumatome N3 kanji
Nihongo Soumatome N2 Kanji
Nihongo Soumatome N3 Kanji
There are no separate Soumatome books for N4 and N5. These two levels are combined into a single book called Nihongo Challenge. It is a detailed book as it contains the kanji stroke orders and easy to memorize illustrations. This book is divided into two sections for each level and contains JLPT oriented exercises.
Nihongo Challenge Kanji – N4-5
Kanji de Manga – by Manga University
These kanji books are simple and fun to read. There are six volumes in total and each introduces eighty kanji. These books can be referred by JLPT N5 and JLPT N4 examinees. Each page shows a kanji with its meaning and stroke orders, and the comics (manga) show how it is used in context. These books are very interesting because you will not feel tired of learning kanji. Unfortunately, all the volumes together cover up to 480 kanji only, hence these are best suited for beginners.
Kanji de Manga from vol.1 to vol.6
Kanji Flashcards – by whiterabbitpress
Kanji flashcards are the best thing ever. You can carry or place the flashcards anywhere and memorize kanji at your own convenience. These flashcards are printed on both the sides with meaning, reading, stroke orders and word examples. The new series (series 2) has a transitional set of 27 cards, Transitional Set B which fits between vol. 2 and vol. 3.
Volume 1 is for beginners (JLPT N5 and JLPT N4), volume 2 is for intermediates (JLPT N3 and JLPT N2) and volume 3 is for advanced (JLPT N1) learners.
Basic and Intermediate Kanji Book – by Bonjinsha Co., Ltd.
This popular set of books cover up to JLPT N2 level. These are very comprehensive kanji books, with wide range of explanations and exercises. I initially found this set of books a bit confusing but it is useful as a workbook. The detailed kanji grouping and stress on vocabulary are special features of these books.
The Basic Kanji Book has two volumes which cover up to 500+ kanji and the Intermediate Kanji Book has two volumes which cover up to 1000+ kanji.
Basi Kanji Book Vol.1 and Vol.2
Intermediate Kanji Book Vol.1 and Vol.2
Preparatory Course for JLPT Kanji and Vocabulary – by Unicom Inc.
I have read the older version of this book (JLPT 2級) and found its format very helpful. This book helps preparing for kanji as well as vocabulary. After every set of kanji there are example sentences with furigana, for the purpose of reading practice. This book can be used for a quick revision. The new versions 「読む・文のルール」 include more explanations and grammar. In both the versions, the readings or words to be learned are printed in a different colors, so that it becomes easier to remember.
The Preparatory Course for JLPT – 文のルール JLPT N1- N5
The Preparatory Course for JLPT 2級 and 1級